Ending La Luz run safeguards wilderness

kevinproescholdt 02 18 13 201by Kevin Proescholdt

 

The recent decision by Forest Service District Ranger Crystal Powell to deny the permit to run the La Luz Trail Run race through the Sandia Mountain Wilderness may be understandably unpopular with some runners and race organizers (“La Luz race hits end of trail as Forest Service denies permit,” Albuquerque Journal, May 15). But this decision is the proper one to protect the wilderness character of this iconic area.

Wilderness is the most protective land designation in the United States. My organization, Wilderness Watch, works to safeguard Wildernesses around the country. We often challenge Forest Service decisions and occasionally take the agency to court when it violates the 1964 Wilderness Act. But in the case of the La Luz race permit, the Forest Service has made the right decision in accordance with the Wilderness Act and agency policies, and there are good reasons for runners and others to support this decision.

Wildernesses contain a huge array of values, many of them intangible like protecting opportunities for solitude, and some of them more tangible like protecting wildlife and increasingly scarce habitat. These values go far deeper than physical impacts to trails or whether litter is left behind. Wildernesses are emblematic of our human recognition of their inherent wildness, and symbolic of our society’s need for restraint and humility in dealing with them. By designating an area as wilderness, we recognize that area’s right to function on its own, without the active management and manipulation used on other federal lands and without the types of intensive intrusions prominent there.

Commercial activities and competitive races degrade a wilderness’s wild character. They detract from an area’s wildness and make an area more like the lands overrun by civilization, rather than “in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape,” as the Wilderness Act states. That’s why the framers of the Wilderness Act and Congress included a prohibition on commercial activities in designated wildernesses, with only a very narrow exception for some outfitting and guiding activities. The Forest Service’s wilderness regulations also contain prohibitions on commercial activities and competitive events.

I sympathize with organizers of the trail run, particularly when the race has occurred since before Congress designated the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. But all across the country are examples of activities once allowed in areas that have needed to end after an area was designated as wilderness, all to better protect the wild character of these special lands for future generations and for wildlife, which are continually squeezed into smaller and smaller pockets of secure habitat. In Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), for example, the 1978 BWCAW Act ended many activities, including a competitive international canoe race, to better protect the area.

Other options likely exist for the race. A few years back, the organizers of a winter sled dog race wanted to route its race through a portion of the BWCAW. The Forest Service appropriately rejected that proposed route, and the race organizers eventually selected a different route. That outcome­—finding another venue or route outside of designated wilderness—may also well work for La Luz Trail Run, a far better outcome than weakening protections for the Sandia Mountain Wilderness.

 

Editor's note: Kevin's piece ran in the Albuquerque Journal on 5/31: https://www.abqjournal.com/2395565/ending-la-lu-zrun-safeguards-wilderness-2.html
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kevin proescholdt

Kevin Proescholdt is the conservation director for Wilderness Watch, a national wilderness conservation organization headquartered in Missoula and focused on the protection of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

 

Lost in the Winds
The Boundary Waters
 

Comments 217

Guest - Murray Bolesta on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:29

Wilderness must stay true wilderness. Too much has been lost already.

Wilderness must stay true wilderness. Too much has been lost already.
Guest - Aurelie Ward on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:29

STOP RUNNNIG RACES IN WILDERNESS AREAS. THERE IS ABSLUTELY NO NEED FOR CMOMERCIAL EVENTS IN WILDERNESS SITES

STOP RUNNNIG RACES IN WILDERNESS AREAS. THERE IS ABSLUTELY NO NEED FOR CMOMERCIAL EVENTS IN WILDERNESS SITES
Guest - Jim P Gayden on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:29

More natural wilderness= better in every way.

More natural wilderness= better in every way.
Guest - Ellen Schultz on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:28

How very wonderful to read about wilderness survival....Bravo and thanks to all of you that are involved in this.

Ellen Schultz, San Miguel de Allende, Gto MEXICO (originally from California)

How very wonderful to read about wilderness survival....Bravo and thanks to all of you that are involved in this. Ellen Schultz, San Miguel de Allende, Gto MEXICO (originally from California)
Guest - Cathie Wanner Ernst on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:28

We are against this run being done in La Luz. Protect the wilderness.

We are against this run being done in La Luz. Protect the wilderness.
Guest - Robert M. Brown on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:26

It seems like a good idea for nature and natural preservation to cancel the La Luz Run. While it must be popular with the runners, many of them would understand that protecting nature is one of the things most needed in this society. We need to preserv eour natural spaces for posterity.

It seems like a good idea for nature and natural preservation to cancel the La Luz Run. While it must be popular with the runners, many of them would understand that protecting nature is one of the things most needed in this society. We need to preserv eour natural spaces for posterity.
Guest - JEAN PUBLIEE on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:25

I AGREE. STOP RUNNNIG RACES IN WILDERNESS AREAS. THERE IS ABSLUTELY NO NEED FOR CMOMERCIAL EVENTS IN WILDERNESS SITES

I AGREE. STOP RUNNNIG RACES IN WILDERNESS AREAS. THERE IS ABSLUTELY NO NEED FOR CMOMERCIAL EVENTS IN WILDERNESS SITES
Guest - Roberta A Bishop on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:25

Keep the wildness safe for all

Keep the wildness safe for all
Guest - T Mo on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:24

Protect the land & move the race.

Protect the land & move the race.
Guest - Kacy Harnedy on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:23

Leave the wilderness just that.. wild

Leave the wilderness just that.. wild
Guest - Roberta A Bishop on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:23

Keep the wildness saf















































































































Keep the wildness safe



Keep the wildness saf Keep the wildness safe
Guest - Nancy Craker on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:23

That was the smartest decision possible to protect this land.

That was the smartest decision possible to protect this land.
Guest - Glenn Eklund on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:23

I agree with the La Luz race permit decision.

I agree with the La Luz race permit decision.
Guest - Steven R Urquhart on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:22

Wilderness is wilderness. There are no exceptions!

Wilderness is wilderness. There are no exceptions!
Guest - Sherrill Futrell on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:21

Thank you so much for ending La Luz Run and saving our precious wilderness from even more unnecessary human impact than it already gets. Runners have 99.9% of the known world and that's plenty. You did the right thing and I totally support you, Crystal. You rock!

Thank you so much for ending La Luz Run and saving our precious wilderness from even more unnecessary human impact than it already gets. Runners have 99.9% of the known world and that's plenty. You did the right thing and I totally support you, Crystal. You rock!
Guest - Pat Mace on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:21

No commercial activities or competitive races. Wilderness SHOULD BE WILDERNESS!!

No commercial activities or competitive races. Wilderness SHOULD BE WILDERNESS!!
Guest - Steve Graff on Tuesday, 29 June 2021 16:21

There are many other suitable places to run outside wilderness areas. Want to run? Get out a map and find a more suitable location.

There are many other suitable places to run outside wilderness areas. Want to run? Get out a map and find a more suitable location.
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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

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